How upskilling can give your CV extra sparkle

Future London speaks to recruiters and bosses about essential resume ingredients to help you make your next career move

Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Keeping up with rapid advances in technology can sometimes feel like a job in itself — so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the UK is facing an ever-growing digital skills gap, with 12.6 million adults lacking basic digital skills.

And according to a report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, that gap is resulting in a £63 billion-a-year loss in GDP growth. But if what companies are looking for and the workforce is currently offering are seemingly miles apart, how do employees bridge this gap?

Being able to demonstrate up-to-date skills is never more important than when hunting for a new role, where digital savvy can be critical when it comes to standing out from other candidates.

The problem is that with more than a billion different software programmes on the market, it can be increasingly difficult to identify which tools and skills will enhance your CV and hopefully also advance your career.

Many recruiters are looking for a mixture of general and industry-specific skills — candidates who can demonstrate both their competency as digital generalists (for example, being familiar with commonly used programmes such as Microsoft Office) but also prove they have specialist knowledge, such as being fluent in any industry-specific digital tools.

“Speaking a software like Microsoft Office is seen as expected because it’s been around so long, so if someone hasn’t got these skills they need to get on a free online course,” says Alison O’Donoghue, recruiter at Syracuse Partners, a recruitment agency for investment professionals.

But candidates need to also deep-dive into their sector’s specific programmes. “The key things we look out for, is [whether] the software people use is relevant to the role. It could be content management tools, social media platforms, analytical tools, depending on the role,” says Toby Roberts, business manager at TPP Recruitment, a specialist consultancy for non-profit and public sector recruitment.

Showing that you are a digital generalist sends the message to recruiters you can educate yourself across different programmes. “We have found that if people can use Facebook they can use other platforms too, as this shows they have the necessary soft skills to educate themselves,” says James Alderman, co-founder of Full Focus Recruitment, a company set up to tackle the digital skills gap.

Employers echo this insight. “We would expect all candidates to be proficient in Microsoft Excel, but a candidate will stand out from their peers if they know programming language, or have experience in data analytics,” says Panos Michaelides, accounting consultant and former senior manager at one of the UK’s top 10 audit firms.


1. Do your research

Spend time researching online and connect with individuals in the roles you are after — people are often more than happy to give advice. “We advise junior candidates to attend online events and go to meet-ups where they can encounter like-minded people and better understand the tools these people are using, and focus on learning those,” says Ashley Lawrence, CEO and co-founder of Trust in Soda, a digital recruitment agency.

2. Value experiential learning

If you recognise that your digital skills may be lacking, take action to develop them. Consider investing your time in getting hands-on experience and educating yourself through relevant online courses, even if you’re not looking for a new role right now.

“A lot of people who have been with the same company for a long time often become institutionalised and lack the necessary digital competency,” says Frances Li, founder of Biscuit Recruitment, an agency focusing on secretarial and office support hiring.

(Web Creative/Debut Art)

“The same way people upgrade their phones, they should also approach tech and constantly upskill themselves.”

3. Walk the talk

Identify the online channels where you can start developing a portfolio of skills for the career you have — or the one you’d like in the future.

“Execution is one of the hardest things to do; people will talk a good game but actually creating content is very difficult,” explains James Alderman of Full Focus Recruitment.

“If you want a change in career, in marketing for example, you can create some really nice and glossy images for your social media on Canva, a free online tool. This will show you can source and create content as well as demonstrate a willingness to try new technologies.”

4. Make sure you are passionate about the role

You need to be actively invested in the sector you are looking to move into.

“We had a candidate recently who has a senior role in a private bank and although he doesn’t have work experience from a fintech business, he was so passionate about our sector, knew our competitors and had so much knowledge about the space, that when the right role is available we will want to hire this individual,” says James Lynn, co-founder of Currensea, a fintech start-up.

5. Be ahead of the game

Knowing your industry’s current digital trends will help you to boost your CV. “When the direction of travel for a company is digitalisation, we would look for candidates who have a deep understanding of technology and are able to pull the right levers in the business,” says Ruby Sheera, partner at Drax Executive, a recruiting firm focusing on private equity-backed companies.

In this sector, for instance: “Cybersecurity is increasingly highlighted as a threat so having an awareness and experience of countering this is key,” says Sheera.

6. Highlight digital skills

Avoid the common pitfall of putting your digital skills at the very bottom of your CV. “Personally I encourage candidates to present their digital skills at the top of their CVs,” says Toby Roberts of TPP Recruitment.

“I call it metaphorically ‘slapping the hiring manager in the face with your digital experience’. It just makes the recruiter’s life as easy as possible. “Then the rest of your CV can focus n your soft skills competence.”

7. Tell a good story

Adding some narrative around the reasons you have acquired certain digital skills and how you have applied them can set you apart from other candidates.

“Don’t just list your skills underneath a job, tell us what you’ve done with that, what projects you have worked on. What were you accountable for? The more unambiguous the better!” says Lauren Langdell, associate director at Trust in Soda.

8. And don’t forget those soft skills

Demonstrating your networking and communication abilities is key as it shows you can navigate the digital world with the same comfort that you navigate the physical.

“We look for soft skills more than anything — we always advise our candidates to be tech savvy but ultimately it is about the personality, how charismatic they are and how assertive they are in decision making. These are the core skills,” says Frances Li of Biscuit Recruitment.

Online Courses To Help

The Open University runs a free online course offering an introduction to cyber security which will teach you the basics on the topic.

Keen to harness the power of social media? At Udemy, the world’s largest online learning platform, you can learn how to harness the power of social media from Twitter and Facebook to blogging and content marketing.

To access a variety of digital courses check out Google’s Digital Garage and Microsoft’s Learning platforms. There are a vast array of online courses on offer.

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